Archive for Hall of Fame

Sal Bando (1944-2023) and a Missed Date for Cooperstown

Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

Third basemen have been underrepresented within the Hall of Fame since the institution’s inception, but one of the greats finally gained entry last week, when the BBWAA elected Scott Rolen in his sixth year of eligibility. Four days before the Hall called Rolen’s name, the baseball world lost another great third baseman when Sal Bando died at the age of 78 due to cancer. With better luck and timing, Bando might have been enshrined as well, with his passing felt far beyond Oakland and Milwaukee, the two cities where he spent his 16-year major league career.

Plenty of onlookers and even some voters had a hard time wrapping their heads around the election of Rolen, a great two-way third baseman whose all-around excellence — power, patience, elite defense, good baserunning — and stardom for two Cardinals pennant winners (one a champion) somehow wasn’t enough for those who expected him to measure up to Mike Schmidt, his predecessor in Philadelphia. Or Chipper Jones, his longer-lasting contemporary. Or… Don Mattingly or even Mark Grace because, uh, reasons. To them the notion of Bando as a Hall of Famer might seem even more unthinkable, but then they’d merely have a lot in common with the crusty scribes of four or five decades ago who helped to give Hall voting its bad name.

Bando spent 16 years in the majors (1966-81) with the A’s and Brewers, making four All-Star teams while most notably serving as the team captain and regular third baseman for an Oakland powerhouse that won five straight AL West titles from 1971-75 and three straight World Series from ’72 to ’74. An intense competitor with a high baseball IQ and a quiet lead-by-example style, he didn’t have quite the popularity or flair of teammates Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, or Vida Blue, but within the green-and-gold’s three-ring circus, he had those stars’ respect. “Sal Bando was the godfather. Capo di capo. Boss of all bosses on the Oakland A’s,” wrote Jackson in his 1984 autobiography. “We all had our roles, we all contributed, but Sal was the leader and everyone knew it.” Read the rest of this entry »


Big Comebacks and Easy Calls: The Next Five Years of BBWAA Hall of Fame Elections

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

For the second year in a row, BBWAA voters elected just one player to the Hall of Fame. While the results may feel underwhelming — at least, beyond the fact that Scott Rolen is a very solid addition to Cooperstown — the advances made by a handful of candidates who didn’t get to 75% this year bolster the likelihood that they will someday, whether it’s via the writers’ ballot or a small committee to be named later. Looking ahead, there’s nothing to suggest that we’re about to see another wave that brings to mind the record-setting 22 candidates the writers elected over the 2014-20 span, but the next few ballots will be more crowded than the last couple, and should make for some lively election cycles.

Underlying this is a change in the dynamics of Hall of Fame candidacies, one that I’ve been noting in this space in recent years. From 1966 to 2005, only three candidates recovered from debuts below 25% and eventually reached 75%, even with 15 years of eligibility: Duke Snider (17.0% in 1970, elected in ’81), Don Drysdale (21.0% in 1975, elected in ’84) and Billy Williams (23.4% in 1982, elected in ’87). Since then, we’ve seen six players elected despite such slow starts, including three from 2017-23. From the 15-year eligibility period came Bruce Sutter (23.9% in 1994, elected in 2006) and Bert Blyleven (17.5% in 1998, elected in 2011), and then once the Hall unilaterally decided to cut eligibility from 15 years to 10 — less to clean up the ballots than to try moving the intractable debate over PED-related candidates out of the spotlight, and give voters less time to soften their attitudes — Tim Raines (24.3% in 2008, elected in ’17), Mike Mussina (20.3% in 2014, elected in ’19), Larry Walker (20.3% in ’11, elected in ’20), and now Rolen, whose 10.2% in 2018 represents the lowest debut share of any modern candidate elected by the writers. Read the rest of this entry »


A Candidate-by-Candidate Look at the 2023 Hall of Fame Election Results

Todd Helton
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

Until the moment Hall of Fame president Josh Rawitch beamed at the cameras on Tuesday evening and said, “Tonight we are pleased to announce the addition…” most of us expected to hear that the BBWAA voters had pitched their second shutout in three years. Happily we were wrong, and Scott Rolen beat the odds. While many of us certainly would have preferred him to have company in reaching the 75% threshold instead of becoming the second one-man class in as many years, the election of one candidate is far better than none. Particularly given the shortage of third basemen in the Hall, the institution will be a better place with one of the hot corner’s best enshrined.

As for the other 27 men on this year’s ballot, the voting results have left us plenty to digest, so as promised, here’s my candidate-by-candidate breakdown of the entire slate. Read the rest of this entry »


Rolen Into Cooperstown: BBWAA Voters Avoid Shutout

Dilip Vishwanat-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

There’s joy in Cooperstown after all. Amid considerable pessimism heading into Tuesday regarding the prospect of any candidate receiving at least 75% from the writers on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, Scott Rolen gained entry after all. The top returning candidate on this year’s ballot received 76.2% of the vote from the writers, thus completing one of the greatest comebacks in modern electoral history. When he debuted on the 2018 ballot, Rolen received just 10.2% of the vote; no other post-1966 candidate has rallied from such meager beginnings to cross the 75% threshold via the BBWAA voters.

A masterful, athletic defender with the physical dimensions of a tight end (he was listed at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds), Rolen excelled on both sides of the ball. The 1997 NL Rookie of the Year went on to make seven All-Star teams, earn eight Gold Gloves, and star for two pennant-wining Cardinals teams, with a World Series performance that helped the Redbirds win it all in 2006. He ranks third among third basemen in Baseball Reference’s version of fielding runs, and by most measures he also ranks among the position’s top 15 or 20 hitters. Even given that injuries significantly curtailed several of his seasons, and that he played his final game at age 37, that offense/defense combination is enough to place him 10th among third basemen in both career WAR (70.1) and JAWS (56.9). Read the rest of this entry »


A Glimmer of Hope for Scott Rolen and Todd Helton

USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2007 Byron Hetzler

With only a few hours to go before the results of the BBWAA’s 2023 Hall of Fame balloting are announced, the widespread assumption is that the voters will pitch their second shutout in three years and their fifth since voters returned to annual balloting in 1966. Not only is there no slam-dunk candidate with the milestones and squeaky-clean reputation that portends a first-ballot election, or a returning candidate who’s the equivalent of a gimme putt away from 75%, but the highest share of the vote from among the 201 ballots published (just over half of the expected total) shows no candidate receiving more than 80.1%. Given that voters who don’t publish their ballots ahead of the announcements tend to be more conservative when filling them out, at best we’ve got a nail-biter ahead of us for the top two candidates. As of Monday evening, Jason Sardell, the top prognosticator for election results for three years running, forecast only about a 13% chance of a candidate being elected. He hasn’t updated the odds in the 21 hours since, which has added just 18 ballots to the pile, but I believe these will suffice:

If you’re looking for a glimmer of hope for Scott Rolen and Todd Helton, I do have one. Here’s a table showing all of the candidates who have received at least 70% via the pre-announcement ballots since 2014 (“The Tracker Era”):

Pre-Election Published Ballots vs. Final Results Since 2014
Player Year Public Pre Elected % of Ballots Change
Ken Griffey Jr. 2016 100.0% YES 99.3% -0.7%
Mariano Rivera 2019 100.0% YES 100.0% 0.0%
Derek Jeter 2020 100.0% YES 99.7% -0.3%
Greg Maddux 2014 99.5% YES 97.2% -2.3%
Randy Johnson 2015 98.5% YES 97.3% -1.2%
Chipper Jones 2018 98.4% YES 97.2% -1.2%
Pedro Martinez 2015 98.0% YES 91.1% -6.9%
Tom Glavine 2014 95.3% YES 91.9% -3.4%
Vladimir Guerrero 2018 94.8% YES 92.9% -1.9%
Jim Thome 2018 93.1% YES 89.8% -3.3%
Roy Halladay 2019 92.2% YES 85.4% -6.8%
Frank Thomas 2014 90.1% YES 83.7% -6.4%
Edgar Martinez 2019 89.7% YES 85.4% -4.3%
Tim Raines 2017 88.8% YES 86.0% -2.8%
Jeff Bagwell 2017 87.6% YES 86.2% -1.4%
John Smoltz 2015 87.1% YES 82.9% -4.2%
Mike Piazza 2016 86.3% YES 83.0% -3.3%
Craig Biggio 2015 84.2% YES 82.7% -1.5%
David Ortiz 2022 83.4% YES 77.9% -5.5%
Larry Walker 2020 83.2% YES 76.6% -6.6%
Mike Mussina 2019 81.5% YES 76.7% -4.8%
Scott Rolen 2023 80.1% ? ? ?
Ivan Rodriguez 2017 79.5% YES 76.0% -3.5%
Todd Helton 2023 78.6% ? ? ?
Trevor Hoffman 2018 78.2% YES 79.9% 1.7%
Craig Biggio 2014 78.0% NO 74.8% -3.2%
Jeff Bagwell 2016 77.7% NO 71.6% -6.1%
Barry Bonds 2022 77.6% NO 66.0% -11.6%
Edgar Martinez 2018 77.4% NO 70.4% -7.0%
Curt Schilling 2020 77.3% NO 70.0% -7.3%
Mike Piazza 2015 76.2% NO 69.9% -6.3%
Roger Clemens 2022 76.1% NO 65.2% -10.9%
Tim Raines 2016 75.4% NO 69.8% -5.6%
Curt Schilling 2021 74.1% NO 71.1% -3.0%
Barry Bonds 2021 73.7% NO 61.8% -11.9%
Roger Clemens 2021 73.2% NO 61.6% -11.6%
Trevor Hoffman 2017 72.7% NO 74.0% 1.3%
Vladimir Guerrero 2017 72.3% NO 71.7% -0.6%
Scot Rolen 2022 71.2% NO 63.2% -8.0%
Barry Bonds 2020 70.9% NO 60.7% -10.2%
Barry Bonds 2019 70.7% NO 59.1% -11.6%
Roger Clemens 2019 70.7% NO 59.5% -11.2%
Mike Mussina 2018 70.2% NO 63.5% -6.7%
Roger Clemens 2020 70.0% NO 61.0% -9.0%
2023 percentages based upon 199 ballots published.

As I noted in my election day preview, of the 14 candidates who received 75% to 85% via ballots published prior to the results, the average differential between those shares and their final results was a drop of 5.6% overall, and 4.4% once you exclude Bonds/Clemens/Schilling, whose baggage created a resistance to their candidacies that doesn’t apply to any of the others here.

While on the one hand just two out of 10 instances in which a candidate received less than 80% resulted in his election that year, the data has been consistent, in that everybody receiving 78.2% or higher has in fact ended up across the finish line. Sardell’s forecasting, which groups voters based upon the number of candidates they include and their electoral stance on PED users, is certainly more sophisticated than this quick-and-dirty table. But as we count down to the announcement, we at least know that there’s something to be said about the possibility of Fred McGriff having company in Cooperstown on July 23.


The Envelope Please: Our 2023 Hall of Fame Crowdsource Ballot Results and a Preview of Election Day

© Kate Collins / Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule, and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

It’s no secret that this year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot hasn’t captured the public imagination in the same manner as recent ones. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa all “graduated” after contentious 10-year runs that spurred widespread public debate — often lively, at times prickly, perhaps even exasperating. In their stead arrived a crop of 14 newcomers, none of whom was a slam dunk. Just one has a strong shot at eventual election, namely Carlos Beltrán, and only one other (Francisco Rodríguez) is likely to receive enough support even to remain on the ballot, whose official results will be announced on Tuesday, January 24, at 6 PM ET on MLB Network.

Given that turnover and the possibility that the ballot’s top returnees, Scott Rolen and Todd Helton, might not get to 75% — thus leading to the second shutout in three years from the writers — it’s understandable why this ballot hasn’t been at the center of attention the way recent ones have. Throw in a lively early free agent season (particularly when compared to last year’s lockout and the previous year’s post-COVID fallout) and our site largely going dark for a much-needed break between Christmas and New Years, and it’s not hard to understand why participation in our annual Hall of Fame crowdsource ballot tailed off. Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot: Bronson Arroyo

USA TODAY Sports Copyright © 2005 Jerry Lai

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule, and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2023 BBWAA Candidate: Bronson Arroyo
Pitcher Career WAR Peak WAR Adj. S-JAWS W-L SO ERA ERA+
Bronson Arroyo 23.4 22.8 23.1 148-137 1,571 4.28 101
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

With his wiry frame, Rockette-like leg kick, and flowing blond locks — once upon a time, braided into cornrowsBronson Arroyo certainly cut a memorable figure on the mound. The tall right-hander (sources ranged between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-5) made just one All-Star team while spending parts of 16 seasons in the majors from 2000–17, but he established himself as one of the game’s most durable workhorses while pitching for several contenders, first in Boston, where he was part of the drought-ending 2004 champions (and the last player active from that team), and then in Cincinnati.

Arroyo didn’t have dominant stuff. In fact, based on data going back to 2002 from Baseball Info Solutions, his average fastball velocity never cracked 90 mph, but the combination of his breaking and offspeed pitches and the deception produced by his delivery and variable release points helped him produce plenty of soft contact. He was among the game’s best at generating pop ups and suppressing batting average on balls in play.

A willingness to improvise helped. “Maybe I’ve never thrown a fricking sidearm changeup, but you know what, I can’t get this m———– out, so I’m going to throw him a sidearm changeup and get him out,” Arroyo told Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter in 2013. “To be honest with you, there ain’t many people who have ever played this game who are going to keep up with me mentally, picking hitters apart with the s— that I have.” Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot: Huston Street

Huston Street
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule, and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2022 BBWAA Candidate: Huston Street
Pitcher WAR WPA WPA/LI R-JAWS IP SV ERA ERA+
Huston Street 14.5 19.3 10.6 14.8 680 324 2.95 141
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

On a ballot that features one closer whose support from voters suggests he’ll eventually wind up in Cooperstown (Billy Wagner) and another who’s fourth all-time in saves (Francisco Rodríguez), it’s easy to forget that there’s a third one of note, particularly as he’s certain to receive less than the 5% of votes required to remain on the ballot. Huston Street carved a niche as an all-time collegiate great before becoming a first-round draft pick and an AL Rookie of the Year, one whose outstanding command, movement, and deception compensated for his comparatively moderate velocity (his sinker maxed out at an average of 92.5 mph in 2009). The combination carried him to a career total of 324 saves, 20th all-time — an impressive total considering he threw his last pitch a month before his 34th birthday.

In a 13-year career spent with the A’s, Rockies, Padres, and Angels (is that a West Coast bias?), Street made two All-Star teams but also 11 trips to the injured list. His slight-for-a-pitcher frame — he was listed at 6 feet and 205 pounds but by his own admission was around 5-foot-10 — couldn’t withstand even the rigors of throwing an inning at a time at high intensity for very long. “There was a reason I never lifted a bunch of weights in the middle of my career,” he told The Athletic’s Pedro Moura in 2019. “Because I was so fucking injury prone that I would get too tight.” Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot: Mike Napoli

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule, and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2023 BBWAA Candidate: Mike Napoli
Player Pos Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS H HR AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+
Mike Napoli C 26.3 22.0 24.2 1125 267 .246/.346/.475 117
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

As images of baseball players engaged in off-field celebrations go, it’s tough to top that of Mike Napoli following the Red Sox’s 2013 World Series victory parade. Over the course of several hours, the burly, bearded 31-year-old slugger went on an epic pub crawl that included stops to tend bar at McGreevy’s of Boston and Daisy Buchanan’s. As widely chronicled via social media, Napoli did shots with fans while soaking in the adulation, and along the way shed his shirt for what quickly became an iconic image.

By that point, Napoli had been through a lot. He’d spent the first half-decade of his major league career (2006-10) locked in an existential position battle that resonated throughout the baseball world. Under the harsh glare of Angels manager Mike Scioscia — a two-time All-Star and two-time champion who caught nearly 1,400 games in the majors before winning the 2002 World Series as manager — the heavy-hitting Napoli battled for the starting catcher job with light-hitting but more highly-touted Jeff Mathis, whose superiority behind the plate appealed to the defense-minded skipper and highlighted the reasons why Napoli couldn’t win the job outright. Even as his own injuries and those of teammates allowed Napoli to expand his positional repertoire, he faced public criticism from his manager. “I think he’s a catcher. He thinks he’s a catcher. He needs to go out and catch like a catcher,” Scioscia said in December 2010. “That is the frustrating part with Mike. We’ve seen it when he first came up.” Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot: Jayson Werth

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule, and a chance to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot for our crowdsourcing project, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2023 BBWAA Candidate: Jayson Werth
Player Pos Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS H HR SB AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+
Jayson Werth RF 29.2 27.5 28.3 1,465 229 132 .267/.360/.455 117
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Over the course of a 22-year professional career that began in 1997, Jayson Werth appeared to transform from a fresh-faced catching prospect… into a werewolf. Drafted by the Orioles as a catcher, he was clean-cut and even wore glasses, but as the years went on, he moved to the outfield, carved a spot in the majors, and grew increasingly shaggier, with a full beard and hair down to his shoulders.

In truth Werth’s evolution was more than just a visual one. Battling injuries for most of his career, he endured numerous ups and downs while journeying from top prospect to non-tendered afterthought to All-Star. He needed nearly a decade to establish himself at the major league level, and didn’t get 400 plate appearances in a season until he was 29. After playing a key role in the first four of the Phillies’ five straight NL East titles (2007-10) — including their ’08 World Series win and ’09 pennant — he took an even more unexpected step, signing a massive seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals in December 2010. An organization that had been something of a punchline looked to him not only to provide middle-of-the-lineup punch but to serve as an impactful clubhouse presence, mentoring younger players (“He’s like an older brother to me,” said Bryce Harper in 2013). By the end of his run, his influence within the organization extended even further. “Ultimately what we have become is a lot to do with some of the things that he brought to the ballclub,” general manager Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore in 2018. “He was teaching us how to be a championship organization, not only on the big league side but throughout the organization.” Read the rest of this entry »